FROM worrying no one would show up to an event that has attracted 143,000 people who have completed 1.3 million runs.

When Richard Leyton steps back to look at what he's achieved, "pretty special" are the words he chooses.

And some might say that's a bit of an understatement.

Richard took up running in 2006 after looking for a way to get fit.

He went on to set up the first parkrun in Scotland, in Pollok Park, and now there are 44 across Scotland, seeing runners head to their local park to take on a 5k challenge.

Richard said: "It's pretty special, stepping back and thinking how it's grown.

"You see all these people getting involved in physical activity and enjoying the event, coming from all different walks of life and every background.

"The great thing about running is that it's easy to do and can break down barriers in getting involved in physical activity.

"Parkruns are welcoming for everyone, from those who are just starting out to those who represent their country.

"It's fantastic seeing the impact on people enjoying themselves."

Richard had friends in London who took part in what became the first UK parkrun, the Bushy Park trails.

He said he was envious of the event as there was nothing like it near him, on the South Side of Glasgow.

So the 45-year-old decided to set up his own.

He added: "Of course, thousands of people have heard of it now but 11 years ago - it took me a year to set the event up - it hadn't been heard of.

"At the time, people were organising annual 5k events and people said to me, 'It's difficult enough to arrange one of these. Why would you want to organise 52?'

"There were issues around insurance, and having the space in the park, and it took time to chug through all of that but it came together quite nicely."

Now the statistics for parkrun in Scotland are pretty impressive.

In Pollok Park there have been 511 events - the tenth anniversary was on December 6 - hosting 19,324 runners.

Around 400 people turn out routinely to tackle the course around the South Side park while others attend five further parkrun set up in other Glasgow greenspaces.

These include: Tollcross, Victoria, Springburn, Drumchapel, Ruchill with junior events in Rouken Glen, Victoria Park and

Barshaw Park.

Parkruns have spread from Crichton to Camperdown and from Troon to Thurso, thanks to 17,000 volunteers.

As well as organising the first parkrun, Richard was also planning his wedding for the same year - and the parkrun, unsurprisingly, had to take a backseat for a couple of months.

On the day itself, there were some nerves as Richard worried no one would show.

He said: "I roped in a few friends and put appeals out on websites. Bear in mind, this was before Twitter and Facebook, which would have made it a lot easier.

"The first week we had 44 people but that dropped the next to 23.

"After Christmas it was quiet for a few weeks but then we haven't looked back."

Richard is now president of Bellahouston Road Runners, saying he wants to "give back" to the club that has given him so much by way of fitness and friendship.

He stood down from the directorship of Pollok parkrun, which has now been taken on by current director Liz Corbett.

Richard is now exploring how the running club can help support mental health.

He said: "I know for myself that running keeps me level. I tend to get a bit grumpy if I don't get my run.

"There are a couple of guys in the club who have been inspiringly honest in opening up about their struggles with addiction so I'm interested in how running can help people get away from behaviours that they need to avoid and support mental health.

"We have built up a great community and we need to see how that community can support one another."